‘Thai unrest may ‘descend into chaos’ if not settled soon’

KUALA LUMPUR: The current unrest in Thailand may likely descend into greater chaos if protesters insist on continuing their movements past Dec 5.

This Thursday marks an important holiday for the Thai nation — King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s birthday.

Under normal circumstances, the country would celebrate in the spirit of calm and reverence for the aging monarch.

According to Human Rights Watch deputy director (Asia Division) Phil Robertson, if a settlement is reached within the next day or two, things might still look positive for an end to violent street clashes.

“…continued protests during the December 5 holiday, which is the King’s birthday, would be seen as unseemly and disrespectful to a highly revered individual in Thai society,” Robertson told Astro AWANI.

“So either there will be a settlement in next 24 to 36 hours, or this situation will continue to descend into chaos,” said the Bangkok-based activist last night.

Robertson said, the most ideal solution at the moment is open negotiations between the government and protesters.

“What is so worrisome is that the government has proposed negotiations and have been rebuffed by the leaders of the protests.

“It’s time to recognise that this situation is causing major human rights violations, and looks to be spinning out of control. Discussions need to start immediately to ensure that both sides respect human rights and that a way forward can be found to start the reconciliation process.”

Robertson said, several human rights violations have been observed during this time, including intimidation of local and foreign media; violence from protesters and a response from the police.

“Clearly situations have resulted in very serious confrontations and violence. The protesters have been clearly seeking to provoke confrontations, and the government has been generally reserved in their reaction, but the situation is veering towards greater violence. No one has been held accountable for the violence and rights abuses,” he said.

He said, protesters have repeatedly intimidated local and foreign media persons that they feel are not sufficiently supportive of their cause. This, he said, threatens freedom of expression and the importance of independent media.

“Protesters have attacked the government house, throwing rocks, Molotov cocktails, and other projectiles, and been met with tear gas and rubber bullets by police.

“On Saturday, near Ramkamhaeng university, anti-government protest mobs attacked buses, taxis, and individuals on motorcycles or on foot who they thought were supporting the pro-government Red Shirts.”

Yesterday, the leader of the anti-government movement, Suthep Thaugsuban called for demonstrators to take over the police headquarters in Bangkok today.

A Thai court issued a second warrant on Monday for Suthep’s arrest on charges of insurrection.

These developments followed bloody weekend clashes between protesters and riot police even as Suthep’s supporters attempted to take-over the prime minister’s office.

Prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra was forced into hiding, and has rejected protesters’ demands that she step down, saying it was unconstitutional. She, however, has repeatedly said she was open to negotiations.

Four people have died in Thailand’s worst political turmoil since the 2010 rallies that ended in violence.

The demonstrators want to replace the government with an unelected “People’s Council”, alleging Yingluck’s government is controlled by her brother, ousted leader Thaksin Shinawatra.

SOURCE www.english.astroawani.com